Therefore, a complete overhaul of this section of the constitution and of the applicable portions of amendments XII and XX would be necessary, which is to say, one would be obliged to amend the constitution. The two dominant political parties have a vested interest in preserving the electoral status quo, so this is unlikely to happen.
I certainly agree with that last statement, but I don't think a run-off system would necessitate an overhaul of the constitution -- unless, of course, FreeDuck
is suggesting we do away with the electoral college (in that case we'd need a major overhaul of the constitution). If we can be satisfied with run-offs at the state level, however, we could do that without altering the constitution at all.
The constitution says remarkably little about the actual process of voting for the president. Indeed, the constitution never says that the president has to be elected by anyone but
the members of the electoral college (compare that to Article I, sec. 2, which mandates that the House of Representatives "shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States"). Now, as to who exactly elected the electors -- the constitution is silent.
In fact, in the early Republic some states had their legislatures choose electors (I believe South Carolina was the last state to do this), so there was no popular vote in those states for president. Likewise, there is nothing in the constitution mandating a "winner-take-all" system for awarding electors; states are free to award electoral votes in whatever manner they see fit (as is evidenced by Maine and Nebraska, which award electors by congressional district rather than statewide poll results).
Nor is there a constitutional requirement that elections for president be held on a single day (electors, on the other hand, must
meet on a single day: see Article II, sec. 1). Again, in the early Republic election days were held at various times, and sometimes spread over several days. The familiar "first Tuesday after the first Monday in November" election date was only established in 1845
, pursuant to congressional legislation. So if Congress decided to hold a general election and then a run-off election, there would be no need to amend the constitution.
Furthermore, there would be no need to amend the constitution in order to institute an "instant run-off" system
, like the kind of system currently in place in Australia. A state would only need to change its own electoral laws; there would be no need for federal approval.
So, as long as the voting process ended up with electors who would meet on a single day to cast their votes for president (according to the requirements of Article II and the Twelfth Amendment), there is a surprising amount of leeway available for the states and Congress to alter the election laws. On the other hand, I agree with you, Set
: in the end, it ain't gonna' happen.